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It’s getting harder to open those raw milk loopholes

Raw milk advocates have gained some ground in the last decade, going from 29 to 43 states that allow some way to sell milk without pasteurization. However, in only 12 states are retail sales of raw milk permitted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And 19 states ban retail sales outright.

But raw milk advocates have been successful opening up any number of loopholes, from herd shares to on-the-farm sales to permitting transactions at farmer’s market and exceptions for pet sales.

This legislative season’s main trend might be one of exhaustion with state lawmakers worn out on the subject, perhaps because they at least are satisfied with the status quo. The dangers of raw milk are well known, but the advocates persist.

This legislative season, raw milk bills in Iowa and Tennessee hit the rocks. Iowa has left its raw milk legislation parked in the House Local Government Committee for almost two months, and proposals in Tennessee went nowhere under pressure from mainstream dairy groups.

Iowa’s House File 2055 (HF2055) would have allowed consumers to buy raw or unpasteurized milk, but it appears to be dead, missing deadlines for bills to move along. Iowa’s session adjourns in mid-April.

In Tennessee, SB 1913 and HB 1963 would have permitted the direct sale of raw milk butter, while SB 2104 and HB 2229 would have exempted raw milk and dairy products sold from a home kitchen from licensure, inspection, and regulation. The General Assembly passed on both, effectively killing them for at least another year.

According to the NCSL, 46 states have adopted the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance or PMO. California, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania don’t use the PMO as the basis for their milk safety law.

NCSL says the federal government, through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not permit the sale of raw (unpasteurized milk) milk for human consumption and advises states not to allow the sale of raw milk.

“Since the FDA does not regulate raw milk, it can be sold only in the state where it was purchased and cannot be sold across state lines or internationally. It also forbids states from permitting the sale of products made from raw milk, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, butter and ice cream. Some hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss, can be made from raw milk,” NCSL adds.

Again, according to NCSL, states can alter their raw milk policies in any one of three ways: passing statues conflicting with Section 9 of the PMO; adopting regulations conflicting with Section 9 of the PMO; or by administrative policy. The states, for example, might choose not to crack down on cow share programs.

There is one way around all of this–just say the raw milk is for your animals.

NCSL found that raw milk sales for animal consumption are at least potentially legal in all states but under commercial feed licensing laws.   Michigan has the only state law expressly prohibits the sale of raw milk for animal consumption. “The variables are the states’ willingness to grant licenses to producers of raw milk for animal feed and how strictly state agencies would monitor licensees to make sure that raw milk sales did only go for animal consumption, NCSL says. “The PMO regulations do not apply to the sale of raw milk for animal feed.”

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